Tom’s facts on curing marijuana !
- Introduction – What is Curing ?
- Is Curing Necessary ?
- Why Do We Cure Marijuana
- What Does Curing actually Do ?
- Unnecessary Information !
- When Do We Start Curing ?
- Drying The Buds First !
- How Long Will The Initial Drying Take ?
- Next Step – Solitary Confinement.
- Burping The Jars !
- The Critical Steps !
- How Long To Cure ?
- When Is Curing Done ?
- Long Term Storage !
- Over Dried Buds – What To Do !
- Products To Help You Cure !
- Recap “Curing Marijuana and How To Do It Properly.
Curing simply put is to prepare for preservation or storage. Curing is a process whereby a
material is caused to form permanent molecular linkages by exposure to chemicals, heat, pressure and or weathering. When we cure marijuana we are preserving it for future use. Curing will naturally enhance the bouquet and flavor of your growing organic marijuana. Curing marijuana and how to accomplish a good cure I discus below. For curing marijuana we will not be using any chemicals or heat or pressure. What we will do to cure marijuana, is to control the weathering by creating a microclimate.
Curing is not essential and some patients (growers) prefer the taste of uncured marijuana. Do you remember long ago what we used to call marijuana back in the 1960’s ? Maybe your too young to know. Marijuana used to be referred to as “Grass.” Do you know why it was called “grass”? Way back then folks didn’t “cure” their marijuana, they just dried it before smoking it. When marijuana isn’t cured it tastes and smells like chlorophyll. It smells and tastes just like a freshly mowed lawn or “grass”. When a lawn of grass is cut the chlorophyll molecules are crushed and released into the air. This is what you smell, chlorophyll.Thus the slang term of “grass” for marijuana was born. Uncured marijuana has a lot of chlorophyll in its flowers and leaves which is what gives plants their green color and fresh-cut grass smell. This is the taste and smell we want to cure out of our marijuana, to get a sweet-smelling and sweet tasting medicine. Sweet is always better because ; “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
The reason we cure marijuana is to change the chlorophyll to a more pleasing smell and taste and to preserve it for future use. Curing your organic marijuana will in fact bring out the unique bouquet and subtle flavors of the particular strain of marijuana you grew and harvested. Curing can also reduce or completely get rid of the harshness of uncured marijuana making it much smoother to smoke. Curing your marijuana before using it for cooking will also make what you cook more flavorful without a harsh or chlorophyll taste. The curing process also changes the composition of cannabinoids and terpenoids. This changes the effects of marijuana on how it makes you feel. Many growers believe that proper curing will actually make marijuana more potent. This is because cannabinoids and terpenoids are altered during the curing process.
To understand what takes place inside the plant during curing we first need to know how plants process food and light. Plant cells form what is called “chloroplasts”. Inside these chloroplasts is where the “chlorophyll” is contained. This chlorophyll by the way of sunlight manufactures food by the process of photosynthesis. The chlorophyll uses sunlight to split carbon dioxide into carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Oxygen is exhaled as a byproduct and the chloroplast combines the carbon and the hydrogen to create “glucose”.(sugar) Structures called “amyloplasts” combines the glucose molecules with oxygen to create and store “starch”. The starch combines with soil minerals to create more complex molecules necessary for plant growth. During a slow cure the transport of water within the plant continues at a very slow rate. The water continues to move from internal cells to supply moisture to the dry outer cells where the water is than transposed thru evaporation. It is during this slow curing that enzymes break down complex proteins and chlorophyll and processes the stored starch, which is once again changed back to “glucose”(simple sugars) and oxygen while water is expelled by evaporation. This is the reason that cured marijuana tastes sweet and has a sweet earthy aroma.
This next paragraph is not necessary to read so : Read at your own risk!
That’s the simple explanation without going into terpenoids and cannabinoids and phenolated terpenes. I could go into how terpenoids go through polycyclic aromatization in the process of decomposition. I could tell you that this agglomeration of terpenoids will change the flavor of curing marijuana. If I were telling you this, I first should have told you that terpenoids are volatile compounds that give marijuana its unique aromas and flavors. I decided I’m not going to tell you about all of that because it just sounds so damn confusing. Who would want to read all of that when it’s just not necessary to know, to understand that starch breaks down during curing into simple sugars, oxygen and water.
Believe it or not but curing actually begins while the marijuana is still in the flowering stage. If your flowering room is getting properly cool at night 60-65*F the process has begun. Cool weather triggers conversion of some starch to glucose. This is just part of the reasons leaves tend to yellow during flowering. The actual curing begins after some drying of the fresh buds.
At this point you have already harvested your organic marijuana and you have put it somewhere in a dark area to dry. You may have hung it up to dry or you may have put it on a screen of some sort. Where ever you have placed it, it should be getting good air flow all around the drying buds. At the dispensary grow we used to hang it up on nylon cords but that took up a lot of space, it was always falling down, it was to easy to mix up with other strains drying. In general it was just a mess. The most convenient way to dry buds is on a screen. To use a screen or a Drying Rack I recommend you have all of your buds cut off the stems and trimmed to your liking. If you are growing and harvesting more than a couple of plants I would use one of the hanging tiered screens. At the dispensary grow we use five of them with 8 tiers. They come in two different sizes 24″ and 32″Diameter. They are easy to use and are made of polyester netting with wire frames to make the shelves rigid and sturdy. They also have snap together buckles to quickly add or remove shelves. These drying racks take up very little space and allows excellent air flow all around the shelves. I realize I sound like a commercial but I do like the racks.
Your drying screen or rack should be in a dark area away from the sun, grow lights and flourescent lights too. An incandescent light is ok. There should be constant air movement all around the drying area. Do not blow air directly on the buds, but air should be passing over and under them passively. This will usually entail a fan somewhere in the drying area. Aim the fan at the floor or a nearby wall so the air from the fan bounces off the wall or floor and then over the buds. The brease should be very gentil as we want this drying of the buds to be very slow. Slow drying is critical to a good cure. The ideal temperature for drying is between 60 and 70 degrees F (16-21*C) and the ideal humidity range is 45% to 55%. Air movement in this drying area is critical especially in humid areas. Without air movement and some fresh air your drying buds are subject to powdery mildew. Once the mildew has started and by the time you notice it , it will probably be too late to save. In very humid areas a “dehumidifier” may be necessary and a wise investment. An air conditioner may be necessary in hot climates. Keep in mind that air conditioners are also dehumidifiers, making them a perfect choice for hot, humid areas.
How long is totally dependent on the relative humidity where you live and of the drying area. It may take as little as three days or as long as two weeks. The longer the better as long as humidity is under control with ventilation and air movement. I live in Colorado and our humidity is usually around 30%. When we tried to humidify the air we found it was too hard to control it at a steady level. When our humidity fluctuated up and down, our drying marijuana turned a drab olive color that was not appetizing. We then decided to just go with our relative humidity of 30% to dry our buds. We discovered that the buds lost 50% of their weight in the first 24 hours. Our drying marijuana buds were usually ready for the next step in curing in 4 days. At this point the buds were dry with just a little spring and the stems were still flexible. This is the way your buds should be before going to the next step. A longer drying period would be desirable but you must let the moisture level in the buds dictate when to go on to the next step. The worst thing that you can do to your buds at this time is to let them dry out too fast and too much. If your buds dry out completely the curing process stops as moisture is necessary for curing to take place.This initial drying allows the conversion of THC from its non-psychoactive form to its psychoactive pH neutral form. FYI Until that happens the marijuana won’t get you very high. The THC molecules must be void of all moisture before they are completely psychoactive.
Confining the buds ! The buds at this point should be between 70 and 75 % dry. They should feel dry on the outside but still have a little spring and the stems will still be fairly flexible, not brittle. This is the time to put your buds into solitary confinement. “Wide Mouth Quart Mason Jars” are the perfect choice for the confinement of the buds to finish their cure. Larger jars do not work well for this step,because humidity get too high and encourages powdery mildew. Use only a water tight container made of glass or stainless steel. Only fill the jars 3/4 full, loosely (do not pack) leaving about an inch and a half of air space at the top and close the lid air tight. The 1 1/2 inch space left at the top of the jar is very important for three reasons. The first reason is this space enables easy rotation of the buds on a daily basis. Second, it allows space for extra humidity being evaporated from the buds. The third reason it allows for extra air(oxygen) which is important to keep the aerobic bacteria alive, continuing the curing processes. Each quart mason jar will hold around an once of cured buds at the finish of the cure, this makes it easy to keep track of your weight.
Burp those jars daily ! Within every jar you have created a microclimate. It is now up to you to control this microclimate. This is very similar to a terrarium with its enclosed microclimate environment of living plants. Now you don’t have living plants in your “Mason jar” terrarium, but you do have aerobic bacteria that you need to keep living. To keep these bacteria alive you will need to, every day for the next two to three weeks,(maybe longer) open these jars and let them air out for a limited amount of time. The first day you may have to let the jars air out for a couple of hours. If your buds feel damp or wet, you may even have to empty the jars out onto the screen again, for a short while, to dry out some more before putting them back into the jars. This all depends how moist the buds got overnight sealed in the jar. Water within the plant is still being transported from the stems to the leaves. This water is then transposed out of the leaves by evaporation. Opening the jars every day allows the humidity in the jar to escape and allows for the air (oxygen) exchange.
These are the critical steps ! This is the critical timing that’s so important. It is during the daily burping is when you check your buds for moisture content by gently feeling and squeezing the buds. This is also the time to inspect your buds for any fungus or powdery mildew. You want to make sure you seal the buds back into their jars when the buds have just a little spring in them without being crispy. As the days go by your buds will be getting a little dryer all the time. Because of this you will leave the tops off of the jars for less and less time to air out. Every day there will be less humidity in the jar meaning the buds are slowly drying out and curing.
This daily burping of the Mason jars is extremely important. This not only lets the humidity out of the jars, it also provides a fresh air exchange which is so important for the curing process to continue. This fresh air (oxygen) is needed by the aerobic bacteria to live and to continue the metabolic processes that are essential for breaking down the chlorophyll and starches to glucose. I have repeated this because of its importance. Failure to burp the jars can cause the bacteria to die, stopping the biochemical process which stops the curing and may allow the humidity to build up causing powdery mildew.
Rotate your jars when burping ! The fresh buds, even with 75% of the moisture removed, will have a tendency to clump and stick together in the jar, partly because of the high humidity in the jar but also because of the sticky trichomes. Before or during the burping process, tap the jars to loosen the buds and break up any clumping that may have occurred. Also turn the jars on their side and rotate or roll the jar to redistribute the buds for even curing. Also very important to do.
What to do with the jars while curing ! While the buds are curing in the jars, you will want to put your jars in a cool dark place. Not cold, but not hot either. The temperature for your curing jars is best between 60 and 70 degrees F. Humidity at this point is of no concern because your buds are in an airtight container. The humidity will make a difference when burping the jars though. With high humidity you will leave your jars airing out longer than with low humidity. If the temperature where the jars are kept is too cold the curing process will slow way down to a crawl. If the temperature is to high your curing buds may begin to ferment. Although fermenting may create a nice taste as with tobacco, it is far too dangerous to attempt with marijuana. Fungi and powdery mildew will usually appear before fermentation begins ruining your buds. Fermenting for taste is best left up to tobacco growers.
How long to cure ? You should strive to cure your buds at the very least 2 weeks. For a proper cure air out those jars for a minimum of five weeks. Now you don’t have to burp the jars every day for five weeks. But you should burp the jars every 24 hours for 3 weeks for a proper cure. After 3 weeks it’s ok to burp the jars once a week for the next few weeks and then once a month after that. Two weeks will give your buds an adequate cure. Three weeks will give your buds a good cure. Four weeks an even a better cure. Five weeks of curing will give your buds an excellent cure. As the time goes on the curing will enhance your buds, but the noticeable benefits slows down. There is no real benefit to curing over six months. I cure my buds for five weeks, and then open my jars once a month for the next two months. If the dispensary hasn’t sold this marijuana by then, the buds go into long-term storage, but that rarely ever happens. The moisture level of your buds will always dictate how long your cure is, but strive for five weeks.
When are the buds done curing ? Your buds are done curing when the stems and buds are 85% dry. The stems will snap but the buds will still be a little flexible. They will still be dry but very slightly spongy and not brittle. You should be able to squeeze the buds without them being brittle. Then they are perfectly preserved ! Smell the buds ! Every time you crack open(burp) the jars smell the buds. As the days and weeks pass, you will smell the difference. Every day and every week that passes the buds will smell a little sweeter all the time. By the end, your buds will have such a pleasant aroma and that means a very pleasant and sweet taste when you smoke the medicine.
Long term storage ! For long-term storage, you may now put your cured marijuana into larger air tight glass jars. You still want them to be in a dark cool place. Refrigeration is good at this point but not necessary. Contrary to popular belief you can freeze them at this point IF the moisture content is below 10%. Special care must be taken if freezing. They mus be in a hard container, so they cannot be crushed and care must be taken when removing from the freezer as the buds will be brittle from the cold. When removing from the freezer let them warm up and thaw out before removing from the jars. For really long-term storage you might want to vacuüm seal them. For long-term storage you may also replace the air in the jars with carbon dioxide, nitrogen, argon, or nitrogen oxide. Without air and oxygen the oxidation processes slow down preserving the marijuana.
Over dried buds ? What to do ! All growers at some time or another have over dried their buds. When this happens the curing process stops. You may re-moisten the marijuana and the curing can resume but not very well. The curing will continue but at a slower inefficient pace. I always suggest, that when airing out (burping) the jars, you set a timer with a good alarm that you can hear. Set an alarm for the amount of time you think you want to air out your jars. Always set the alarm for less time than you think it will take, to prevent over-drying. I always set an alarm because it’s too easy to get caught up doing something else and forget you’re airing out jars.
Best way to re-moisten if you must ! All growers have had to do this from time to time. To re-hydrate the marijuana some growers use orange peals, lemon peals, pieces of apple and lettuce. I have found that the fruit can alter the taste of the buds so I don’t use them. Lettuce is good and won’t alter the taste but I find lettuce to flimsy and unacceptable for me. The best rehydrater I have found is carrots. I like carrots because they are stiff and can be put into and taken out of the jars easily and will not alter the aroma or taste of your curing marijuana. To use carrots, first peel them like you would a potato or as I do, just scrape the outside skin off with a knife. Then cut them into strips 3 to 4 inches long. Insert one, per quart Mason jar, into the middle of the buds. Be sure to check these jars in 12 hours and no longer than 24 hours. In 12 hours they should be good to go. After 24 hours you may have to let them air out and dry a little before re-sealing the jars. Be sure to take the carrot out of the jar at the 12 to 24 hour mark!
Products that may help you during the cure. I have not used these products for curing but many growers do and find them very useful. “Humidipaks” These are little packets that are put into the quart jars with your marijuana. These packs regulate the humidity in the jars automatically. These are commonly used in humidors for cigars, so you know they will not alter the taste of your marijuana. Another helpful instrument is the “hygrometer “. These can be purchased small enough to fit into the quart jars and monitor the temperature and humidity in the jars. Using these two products can take almost all the guess-work out of curing in jars by regulating and monitoring the humidity.
- What is curing? Preparing for preservation !
- Is curing necessary? No
- Why cure? To preserve and to get rid of chlorophyll. To improve flavor and aroma and to improve potency.
- What does it actually do? Simply put, it breaks down chlorophyll and changes starch to simple sugars an oxygen.
- How to start ? Harvest, trim, and begin slow dry, in the dark with good ventilation and air movement.
- How long to dry? Dry until buds are 70% dry. Buds will be dry, not crispy, and they will still have a little spring when squeezed and stems will still be flexible.
- Next ! Confine buds to quart jars, leaving an air space of an inch or so.
- Date jars ! Wright the date of confinement on the jar lid, to keep track of passing time.
- Burp jars ! Air out jars every 24 hours for a limited amount of time by setting an alarm to go off reminding you, jars are open and need to be closed.
- How long to burp ? Continue burping jars for two to five weeks, longer if moisture levels demand it.
- When is curing over ? Curing is complete when the buds are 85 % dry , still slightly flexible when squeezed and stems snap when bent.
When growing organic marijuana and especially medical marijuana, the way you go about curing marijuana and how you do it, is extremely important. If the curing is not done properly, the patients that smoke your medical marijuana will not be very happy, and neither will you. Happy Curing ! Go to Page : Marijuana Is Good For You !
Author. Tom D.